By Adam Coleman
Queensland’s 157 councils will undergo their first sweeping reform in more than a century, unless widespread opposition to the planned forced council mergers halts the process.
A seven-member Queensland Local Government Reform Commission, organised by the Queensland Government, is considering the new council boundaries and will report back to Government on 1 August.
Queensland local governments have expressed outrage at the limited time have been given (less than a month) to comment on the mergers, having only up until May 25 to submit a response to the reform commission.
Local Government Assocation of Queensland president Cr Bell said the state government had effectively silenced Queenslanders who expected to have a say in reform of their local councils through the government-endorsed Size, Shape and Sustainability program for voluntary restructuring.
He called it “farcical” the commission could consider a restructuring of 117 councils with 1100 locally elected representatives and tens of thousands of employees in just over three months.
Other observers have questioned the ability of the forced amalgamations to increase the financial sustainability of local government.
The director of the Centre for Local Government at the University of New England, Brian Dollery argues that amalgamation programs conducted in other states have failed to improve financial sustainability.
“Indeed, the financial position of many local authorities, big and small, has continued to deteriorate,” he told governmentnews.com.au.
Cr Bell urged councils to submit to the reform commission by May 25 “because this could be your last chance to have your say on how your town or city is managed in future, by whom and from which location”.
“Don’t let yourselves be sidelined,” he said.
Concern has also been expressed for the survival of those smaller rural councils and for councillors’ jobs.
The reform commission can be contacted on 1800 447 682 or see http://www.lgrc.qld.gov.au/.
For more information see the June edition of Government News which will feature expert commentary on the potential impacts of council amalgamations. Among those interviewed will be Clarence Valley Council mayor, Ian Tiley who for the past three years has overseen the amalgamation of Clarence Valley in NSW from six councils into one.
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